Friday, April 30, 2010

Flog, recover, repeat

I will freely admit that occasionally I flog myself.  It’s not often but it does happen on a regular basis.   However, more frequently I am flogged by other people.  It could be men, women, groups, younger people, older people, you name it.  They all have their own rewards but pretty much leave you feeling the same way.  Now, I was trying to figure out how to work chamois cream into this but since I just remembered my mother-in-law reads my blog I decided it’s time to drop the double speak and get on with it.

Of course, those of you who cycle know exactly what I am talking about.  That flogged feeling we know so well comes from riding harder, faster, further or higher than you ever have before.  It’s the kind of ride that when you finish you simply lean the bike against the garage, find your couch and curl up in the fetal position.  As you slip into your “flogged coma” your last thoughts are “I hope whatever Sherry made for dinner can be blended and drank through a straw”.

The whole idea behind this is that pushing yourself makes you stronger.  It’s that simple.  But you still need to be smart about it.  With flogging you need recovery if you are going to get the true benefits.  As someone who started cycling a little later in life, recovery is an incredibly important aspect of my routine and fortunately, I have a coach that recognizes that.

Let’s start with the flogging bit.  As mentioned earlier, you can flog yourself in many ways.  It could be the first time you climbed that monster hill in your area or hung on to the back of a pace line going 28 mph when your average is closer to 18.  It could be the first time you rode a century.  The bottom line is that you are exhausted at the end and believe it or not that’s a good thing especially since it is frequently combined with a sense of accomplishment.

After a monster ride you obviously need to recover but that shouldn’t mean staying off the bike for the next couple of weeks.  While rest is important, recovery rides are also an important part of the process.  This is the step I think a lot of people miss.  They have a “go hard or stay home” mentality with no recovery steps in between.

Here’s my normal weekly routine on the bike.  Mondays are rest days, so I only ride when it’s a holiday.  Tuesdays are when the floggings commence.  I will normally do speed or hill intervals, push monster gears, and squeeze out every ounce of energy I have into one intense 90-minute workout.  Thursdays are for active recovery rides.  These rides are all about just enjoying the bike and cruising around at a good, but not intense, pace.  Wednesdays and Fridays are also rest days.

floggedWhat’s the difference between the rides?  On flogging days my average heart rate will be 150 or higher and max HR will top over 180.  On recovery rides, I don’t allow my HR to exceed 150 and usually end with a 125 average.   I may raise the pace for a few minutes on my recovery rides but nothing drastic and I still stay below a 150 HR.  Plus, as these two contrasting non-floggedphotos indicate, there is difference in how you look.

I apply the same principles to the weekend rides.  Saturday is normally my go hard day.  I push myself up big, big climbs, try to hang with faster riders for a little longer, or push longer distances.  In the end, I am usually feeling the efforts but “I’m not dead”.  That will be followed on Sunday with more active recovery riding that includes a lot of pre and post ride coffee chat with friends.

There you have it.  My little secret for getting stronger and having fun on the bike.  I am not espousing that this works for everyone but it works for me.  I make the most of only riding four days a week with plenty of time for rest and recovery.

Now if you’ll excuse me, since it’s Friday I think it’s time for another cup of coffee.


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Here’s to friends

Well, today starts my final year in my 40s.  That’s right!  I turn 49 today and life couldn’t be better.  Ok, if I was honest I would have to admit I might make a tweak or two but in the grand scheme of things life is good.

coffee One of the reasons life is so good is my cycling and the circle of friends it includes.  For family reasons I won’t go into, I did not make a lot of close friends growing up.  I was on FB the other day and it suggested that I see who else from my graduating high school class was on FB.  There are 204 classmates on FB and I only recognize about 5 names.  I guess that’s why there are not a lot, or any, reunion invitations coming my way but I am really ok with that.

From high school it was off to see the world with the US Coast Guard.  Of course I met a lot of people during my 10-year hitch but only had 3 close friends who I stay in touch with today.   This was really more to do with people transferring in and out of your life and less to do about making friends.  This was in the 80’s and I think I might have stayed more in touch with many of them if FB had been around in those days.

It was during this time that I met, and married, my best friend.  After nearly 24 years of marriage I can honestly say to this day that I would rather spend time with Sherry then anyone else.  Still, every couple needs that one thing they do apart to help them appreciate time together and that’s where cycling enters the picture.

LA and PK I did not start cycling until I was 42.  In the short 7-years since then I have met some wonderful people.   I have developed some deep and lasting friendships and had some truly amazing adventures and experiences.  I’ve logged close to 20,000 miles and most of time I was with one or more friends.  And, I’m not done.

While I love pushing the pace, practicing pace lines and trying ever harder climbs, my favorite ride is still one where I am riding side-by-side with friends.  The kind of ride where laughter is more important then heart rate.  Rides where reliving shared adventures takes the place of interval training.  You know, just riding for the joy of cycling.

And don’t even get me started on the pre or post ride coffee chats.  These are just as important to me as the rides themselves.  We go out of our way to make sure every ride starts at or near coffee.  Hell, I’ll even drink Starbucks if it means laughing with friends for a few minutes before we roll on to our next adventure.  In winter, it’s not unusual for us to design a ride around multiple coffee stops.  For recovery rides, there’s always Coach Tim’s Big Ring Coffee Ride, which means the first person who goes to the big ring buys coffee for everyone.

GGB Now it’s time to admit to one of the tweaks I would like to make in my otherwise great life.  I want to do more of those types of rides.  Over the last couple of years it seems my riding is taking on a much more serious nature and that needs to change a little.  I mean, come on!  I just turned 49 so I don’t think racing in the Tour of California is anywhere in my future.  No, I need to remember the real reason I ride and that it’s really about hanging with friends.

Being a man of action means I need to make this happen.  And happen it will!  Soon!  Until then, I will make the most of my big day today and wait to see what adventure awaits me on this Saturday’s ride.  If my friends are there, I’m sure it will be great.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

The “joy” of aging

I seem to be having trouble getting 2010 on track from a cycling perspective.  A unique mixture of no motivation, work (lots of work), health issues, and even a crash is taking its toll.  As I write this I am recovering from my second cold of 2010, which kept me off the bike again this week.

Part of the issue is that I am getting older.  Not old, just older.  I was actually thinking about this the other day and decided that in my mind I am still in my mid-30’s.  In reality, I turn 49 next week.  Still, I am in some of the best shape of my life so I can’t really complain.  Plus, there are 20-year olds at work who have no desire to ride with me because their afraid they can’t match my pace or distance.  That helps me feel younger and always adds a bounce to my step.

However the signs of aging cannot be ignored.  For me, this has nothing to do with gray hair and wrinkles.  It’s not even my overall health, which I feel is excellent.  No, it’s the changes in how the body responds that I am noticing the most.

Let’s start with overall fitness.  I took less time off in this off-season then in years past.  I participated in Coach Tim’s indoor training clinics from November through February.  And still, I did not enter this season feeling as strong.  WTF?  So I am noticing that my fitness falls off just a touch faster and takes just a tad longer to regain.

I’ve already mentioned I am on my second cold of the season.  I used to have 2 years between colds, not 2 months.  I can’t ever remember a time when I had 2 colds so close together.  Once again, it’s the impact on fitness that is the most damaging.  I am recovering quickly from the symptoms but I can tell my strength is not there yet.  All of this means I will now have to work harder to get back to where I was before the cold.  Can you see the theme? 

Three weeks ago I had a minor crash.  It really was no biggie.  I went down on my left hip and bounced more then slid.  This left me with a decent bruise but no real road rash.  I was even able to ride home.  When I got home, I started the recovery process.  Still, the next day I could hardly walk.  Not because of pain but because of stiffness.  The whole left side of my body just didn’t want to warm up.  There is still some black-and-blue left from the bruise today, 3 weeks later.  In my younger days that would be long gone by now.

Surprisingly, aging is also impacting my motivation.  When I was younger and running the trails of Annadel the harder it rained the happier I was.  There was something about going head-to-head with Mother Nature that made me feel alive.  Now, not so much.  If the weather is bad I am much more incline to reach for the coffee pot for a refill. 

april clothes Don’t even get me started on how I dress.  A few years back, wet weather Annadel runs called for shorts and a long sleeve shirt.  Today, if the temperature is below 50 I am in tights.  If it’s below 45 I’m looking for my sweat shirt.  On any given winter ride you can bet I have on at least one more layer of clothing then everyone else.

Don’t get me wrong.  I am not whining about getting older.  Hey, it happens!  There’s nothing any of us can do to stop it.  I am just trying to be realistic about the effects and it’s impact on my life.  I am guessing if I manage it correctly, I may continue to get older but I won’t slow down.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ride my bike.


Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Cycling Therapy

The first 3 months of 2010 seems to be a complete blur.  This is especially true about work.  Work has been solid crazy so far this year and that’s resulted in a fair amount of stress to deal with.  Usually, I let the bike take care of that but the weather seems to be taking work’s side this year so that’s been a challenge as well. 

Just like all of you, my work like can be quite challenging.  It’s not a time thing.  I rarely work more then 45 hours or so a week, which is a far cry from people working 60 or more.  I don’t have a commute to speak of.  I am less then 5 miles from the office and even with my morning cappuccino stop it only takes about 15 minutes to get there.  I would actually ride there except I have to wear the whole “coat and tie kit” and I frequently have meetings around town. 

It’s really more about the pressure and intensity, which is partly the result of  the current economic situation.  My job is much more taxing mentally then physically so I frequently have that “brain dead” feeling at the end of the day.  Even with all that said, I do recognize that my issues are small compared to many others across this nation and I remain grateful for that.

I have 3 very successful ways of coping with the daily grind and refreshing my mind.  I have my wonderful wife, a great (and expanding) circle of friends, and cycling.  The first 2 are as strong as ever, however the cycling seems to be a little off.  Last night, it all started to come around.

Last night was the first time this year I managed to ride, on the road, after work.   This is where my short commute really helps out.  I left the office at 6:02 and rolled out of the driveway at 6:30.  Not too bad!  It wasn’t going to dark until 7:40ish and it was a beautiful 71 degrees with just a bit of a wind.  The perfect spring evening to ride.

The ride itself was fine.  I did some hill work in Fountain Grove that allowed me to really work hard.  I also came screaming down a few descents at 40+ mph.  (By the way, don’t you just love riding by one of those police speed monitoring contraptions and noticing that you’re speeding?)  In the end, it was only a 60-minute ride but at least that was 6o minutes I didn’t have to spend on the trainer.  But it wasn’t the workout that mattered.

No, the real benefit last night was mental.  I was enjoying being on the bike with the blooms and bouquets of spring all around.  Birds were singing, creeks were running, and there was this shared feeling of happiness to be alive.  That’s the feeling I can’t replicate when I am riding the trainer in the garage.  I can mimic the physical nature of the ride but not the psychological (or dare I say, metaphysical) part.

I felt my mind begin to free up immediately.  I changed to hill work from my original plan of just cruising around town.  As I put in big efforts on the climbs, I thought of my many friends racing at the first Tuesday Night Twilights of the year and I was thankful they had such a beautiful night for racing.  As I bombed back down the hill I thought of . . . well, nothing really because when you’re traveling at 44 mph you’d better be focused on staying upright.   I thought of my Team Revolution mates learning new skills from our team director and hoping one night this year I can join them.  By the time I got home I was feeling exhilarated. 

Is there a moral to this story?  Perhaps not.   It’s more of an important reminder that we all need some form of escape.  I know the next time I’m feeling stressed I will be reaching for the bike and not the aspirin. 


Sunday, April 4, 2010

Coding, not cycling

Before you even started reading you probably noticed that things have changed just a little.  Welcome to my new look.  I’ve been thinking about making a change for while now but just haven’t found the time or motivation.  Somehow, that all changed this week and I found both.  I think it was partly due to the new logo.

Over the last 12 months I’ve felt there was too much wasted space around the outside of the blog.  I started researching other blogs and quickly decided I liked the 3-column look much better.  So, I began searching for a 3-column template but never found one to my liking.  Not even close and I have probably looked at a couple of hundred templates by now.  Then, I found a blog post explaining how to change the HTML code to create my own 3-column template.  Did I really want to try that?  I read through the instructions and it seemed pretty straight forward so I decide that I will give it a try when I have some free time.

IMG_0172 What made today the day?  Well, just take a look at the picture to the right.  As you can see, it is another cold, wet, and windy day here so I decided to spend the morning coding, not cycling.

It was actually kind of fun.  I was able to make the initial changes and, after fixing few mistakes, I had the basic 3-column template complete.  Of course, the template I started with was different then my original so while I achieved the overall layout I was hoping for it did not have the right look and feel.  At least, not yet.

I then continued on to learn about creating code for enhancing color schemes, adding padding (some technical term) for the right spacing, playing with column widths, and other odds and ends until I ended up with what you see here.  Of course, since the columns are set up differently, I also spent some time deciding what was going where.  I have to say that once the template was re-designed all of the other work was just drag-and-drop kind of stuff that was very easy.  Lastly, I called on the powers of Sherry’s creative eye for colors to make everything sync just right.

I also decided it was time to update and refresh some of the photos including the title.  That’s Chris, Mr. Fitness Journal, and I riding in Monument National Park outside Boulder, Colorado.  I think it’s only fitting that Lee’s Life Adventure pay homage to one of my greatest cycling adventures ever.

You may see more enhancements in the future but for now I hope you enjoy the new look!